With Rod Langway ailing and Bob Rouse traded, the Capitals found themselves in need of a strong defenseman to clear opponents away from the Washington net. So they took a chance on Ken Sabourin, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder who could not break into Calgary's lineup.

Sabourin performed that task capably in yesterday's 5-4 win over the New York Islanders. He also produced at the other end, pinching in deep to poke home a rebound of a Steve Leach shot and tie the game with 9:34 left in regulation time.

It was only the second goal in 29 NHL games for Sabourin, who has no scoring credentials. He had seven in his best junior season, at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in 1983-84.

"It was a two-on-two situation and I jumped in to make it a three-on-two," Sabourin said. "I saw Hunts {Dale Hunter} on the right side and I went for the net. The puck was in the air and I hit it with the back of my stick. It just proved that when you drive for the net, anything can happen.

"Obviously, they brought me in for my defensive play. I'm not kidding anybody. That's what I have to do. Any offense is a bonus." Refusing to Cut Out Early

Shortly before Kelly Miller scored the winning goal in overtime, Washington defenseman Al Iafrate suffered a skate cut on the right side of his face during a four-player pileup behind the Capitals' net. Instead of leaving for repairs, Iafrate stayed on the bench. . . .

Miller and Dave Christian made commercials for a bank last year, with the idea that they would be alternated. But Christian was traded, so Miller saw double duty on the screen.

The bank recently filmed new commercials with Miller and Bob Rouse. But Rouse was dealt away, so once again Miller will be given double time.

In another twist, Miller was used for the team's growth poster this season. The previous poster players were Pete Peeters and Scott Stevens, both of whom have left.